Identity Statement for Murphy Family

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P141
  • Title: Papers of the Murphy Family
  • Dates: (1892–2002)
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 2 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use
  • Allied Material

Biographical History

Cornelius J. Murphy ('Conn') was born in May 1869 to Cornelius Murphy, a hardware merchant who owned an ironmongery store at 100 Parnell Street (formerly Great Britain Street) in Dublin. Conn worked for the Post Office and worked variously at the Telegraph Office, Sir John Rogersonís Quay and the General Post Office (GPO) on O'Connell Street. While working he also undertook studies in the Royal University and graduated with his BA degree in 1895. Following his degree he took the Civil Service examinations. Later, in 1906, he was the first recipient of the DPh (later PhD) degree from the Royal University. He was active in the early years of the foundation of University College Dublin and was on the staff in a temporary capacity. 

Conn was also a founding member of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge), and turned to politics during the War of Independence and the Civil War. He was staunchly anti-Treaty and was imprisoned by the Free State in March 1923. In protest, he went on hunger strike and organized other prisoners in Mountjoy Jail to do the same. Around this time, he also lost his civil service post under the Free State government as a result of writing a letter to the national papers complaining about the brutal treatment of his son Feargus by soldiers in the Curragh internment camp. He was re-instated in 1932/3 under the Fianna Fáil government. 

He ran for election in 1923 and in 1927. In the first instance he ran in Dublin County as a republican candidate but was eliminated. In 1927 he was the Fianna Fáil candidate for Dublin North but was again unsuccessful. In January 1923, he was part of a government delegation to Rome, whose aim was to convince the Vatican to lift the excommunication order on IRA members. Conn was chosen due to his reputation of being a strong Catholic lay person and also that his long friendship with Revd Joseph OíHagan, Rector of the Irish College in Rome would open doors in the Vatican. However,  the delegation was not received and Conn returned home disappointed.

In 1895 he married Annie Byrne of 57 Lennox Street and settled in Rathgar. They had four children: Annie Mary Constance Murphy ('Connie'), Kathleen, Feargus and Conn. Like their father, they all became involved in the political struggle for Irish independence. The eldest, Connie, was imprisoned at the same time as her father and was held at Cork City Jail, Kilmainham and North Dublin Union for the best part of a year before being released (c.October 1923). She married Desmond Bracken Murphy, who worked in intelligence in the IRA and son of James Fintan Murphy, an active Irish Republican in London. He was also interred in the Curragh Camp along with Connie's brothers Feargus and Conn. They had two children, Constance and Elsa.

Kathleen, who was head of Cumann na mBan in University College Dublin, became a medical doctor and was famous in her own right for setting up a campaign to save German children who were orphaned during the Second World War. She was arrested briefly along with her son around this time.

Archival History

The Murphy Family Papers were deposited in UCDA by Constance Murphy, the granddaughter of Conn Murphy, in 1996.

Scope and Content

Correspondence: between Conn Murphy and Annie Byrne, especially in the period before they were married (P141/1–85; 108–117). Very few letters contain reference to his political involvement but those that do speak of the Border campaign in 1922, and also of the part he played in a government delegation to Rome in 1923 (P141/93–99; 121–124); between Connie Murphy and her parents while she taught English and studied German in St P–lten, Austria (P141/175–210); between Connie Murphy and her parents while she was imprisoned by the Free State government in 1923 for political activity (P141/218–236); between Connie Murphy and Desmond Murphy, especially in the period before they were married (P141/307–384); and general family correspondence. 

Photographs: Ranging from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, the collection contains photographs of members of the family in both formal and informal contexts (P141/155ñ–163, 406–425).

Sound recordings: three- part audio interview with Constance Murphy reminiscing about her family history.

Other material: Birth/death/marriage certificates (P141/396–405); a series of love poems that Conn Murphy composed for Annie Byrne when they were courting (P141/144–152) as well as more ephemeral items such as wedding invitations and books on etiquette.

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Application to consult that part of the collection relating to Desmond Bracken Murphy must be made to the depositor. Details of the procedure may be had from UCD Archives.
  • Language: English; occasional Irish, French and German
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue

Papers of Dr Kathleen Farrell (née Murphy) IE UCDA P115


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